Five 'Early Researchers' Nab Provincial Support

July 31, 2008 - News Release

Five University of Guelph professors have received Early Researcher Awards from the Ontario Ministry of Research and Innovation.

The announcement was made today by John Wilkinson, minister of research and innovation and Liz Sandals, MPP for Guelph-Wellington, during an event at the University.

Worth an estimated $700,000, the awards will support novel U of G research projects ranging from conserving migratory species to studying how plants respond to environmental stresses to measuring the effectiveness of cervical cancer interventions.

"The Early Researcher Awards are an important investment by the Province of Ontario in advancing the careers and research programs of some of our most promising young faculty," said Steven Liss, U of G's interim vice-president (research).

"We are particularly proud of the accomplishments of the awardees. The fact that there are five recipients in this latest competition is a testament to the strength of our faculty and the promise that Guelph will continue to lead in fundamental research and innovation, and contribute to advancing the health of our citizens, ecosystems and environment in Ontario and around the world."

The highly competitive program is open to researchers within the first five years of their career. In total, 66 projects will receive more than $9 million this year.

As part of the award, each Guelph professor receives $140,000 to further their research and build teams of graduate students, post-doctoral fellows and research associates.

"This will really speed up my student recruitment drive," said Prof. Jaideep Mathur of the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology. He is studying how plants adapt to climate change, pollution and other environmental effects.

Mathur uses genetically engineered fluorescent proteins to selectively colour different cellular components and compartments of plants. The system allows him to see how plants respond to environmental stresses in real time and to monitor the interactions between individual parts inside a plant cell.

Physics Prof. Paul Garrett also plans to support graduate students and accelerate his research with his award. He is testing and constraining new theories of matter beyond the Standard Model, work that will ultimately lead to a better understanding of why the universe looks the way it does.

"We will use advanced techniques in nuclear physics to perform these investigations, providing an ideal training ground for the next generation of nuclear scientists and engineers," Garrett said.

Prof. Hafiz Maherali of the Department of Integrative Biology called the award "a tremendous honour. It is also very important recognition for our approach to examining how biological invasions will affect the ecosystems of Ontario and Canada."

Maherali and his team will be testing new ideas about the capacity of dominant native species to resist invaders. A related goal is understanding how plants and ecosystems respond to climate change.

Prof. Ryan Norris of the Department of Integrative Biology is also looking at the effect of environmental change. Norris and his team are developing chemical markers and radio telemetry techniques to track migratory animals.

They will use the information to examine how changes in climate and other environmental stresses influence the populations of songbirds and insects. Ultimately, the work will help Canada develop effective international conservation strategies.

Meanwhile, Prof. Chris Bauch of Department of Mathematics and Statistics, will further his research on simulation modelling to help improve public health policy. He will use computer simulation to determine the optimal strategies of cervical cancer vaccination and screening for women in Ontario. He will also use game theory to understand changes in risks and benefits of a vaccine after licensing.

For media questions, contact Communications and Public Affairs: Deirdre Healey, Ext. 56982/

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